Thursday, April 14, 2016
Is a New Kind of Gnosticism Creeping In?
The Church has always seen mortal sin as a toggle switch. You're either in it, or you've gone to confession and you're in a state of grace. It may seem odd that God, from His timeless perspective, chooses to handle it that way, but, on the other hand, it has the virtue of certainty for creatures stuck in time. It also should keep us on our toes, since we "do not know the time nor hour."
The Bear detects a change in this. The Church seems to be moving toward an "evolutionary" view of sin. "Sin" is a failure to meet an ideal, against which we engage in a lifelong struggle to become better people. The guilt may actually be detached from the act entirely without sacramental confession or even amendment as long as we "learn from our past mistakes." The Bear has seen this trend everywhere from the confessional to the Pope's latest apostolic exhortation on the family and surrounding hoopla.
This is not Catholic. It might be a "therapeutic model." But the Bear sees traces of ancient heresies. There is a persistent current of occultism that goes all the way back to Valentius (d. 160) who almost became pope, to Plotinus, and, in his tradition, the Neoplatonists. Let's call today's version it a "soft" Gnosticism. Here's why.
Common to what we have already seen in strains of the Western Mystery Tradition, which the Bear introduced with Valentin Tomberg's Meditations on the Tarot, is the idea that the soul is trapped in matter, and must make its way back to God. There is no sin, per se, just evolution, and even our "mistakes" unfailingly take us closer to our goal. Incidentally, of course there is no eternal Hell, which is another, sometimes explicit, feature of the new thinking.
When you take two people living in an objective state of adultery and, through "pastoral discernment," side-step the guilt through some ad hoc process of self-awareness counseling, while never requiring them to do anything at all about the "matter" of the sin, the Bear cannot recognize this as Catholic. It is, however, perfectly consistent with the belief that the soul is in a constant state of "evolution" and there is no real sin, merely learning experiences along the path of return.
Such an idea unhinges the entire Christian religion, of course. Jesus becomes a figure of love and acceptance, not a sacrifice to save us from our sins. Mercy is not the unmerited, gratuitous forgiveness of sin, as advertised, but is actually the simple recognition that humans make mistakes, and grow.
If you haven't caught on to this yet, don't feel bad. Bears can smell a fire before it starts to burn, or so the song goes. And you pick up a lot of strange knowledge in 1300 years.
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